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On the Right of Certain Comrades to carry Red and Black Flags (1969)

Today I received a newspaper photo of Queensland's Brian Laver marching under a red and black flag and a letter which stated that the marchers sounded just like the Monash Labour Club at the May Day March last year. It would be nice to think that this was just a case of left groups shelving their differences in order to get something done, but such is not the case. What the anarchist flags amongst the NLF flags signify is not co-operation but an unhealthy confusion of a type to which the younger New Left (or with Doug Kirsner "the Young Left") seems peculiarly prone. Their concern for freedom leads by a peculiar romantic logic to a fanatical and uncritical support for National Liberation movements. This may be alright in the context of the USA or Australia at the present time because it opposes official patriotism with a more or less idealistic internationalism, but I do not think it can be otherwise justified. It must be remembered that "National Liberation" does not imply freedom for the individual, let alone control over his own destiny; but the New Left has claimed that these are its political aims. Surely the historical left would have had nothing to do with a "Democratic Republic" (a bourgeois name for a worse than bourgeois reality). They at least needed to be persuaded that Russia was a "federation of Soviets" before they closed their eyes and supported Stalin. Today's left would be much easier to seduce.

The demand for a new morality, for new type of person, becomes confused with, the campaigns by the Cubans and the Chinese (and if you accept these, then ultimately the Russians as well) for the new socialist man: the campaign for the perfect citizen of the all-pervading state. The view held by these rulers is essentially that the masses are plasticine to be molded by the ruling elite. This is a possible view but it is as far from anarchism and humanist socialism as it is from marxism or classical democracy. In particular it is a view that, in its American forms, the New Left have sworn to oppose.

At present the New Left at Melbourne are handing out the Program of the NLF-SV. Except for the words "fascist" and "imperialist" it could have been written in 1848, indeed it has some decidedly reactionary bits and is national-patriotic in wording. It supports the national bourgeois and mentions neither collectivisation, nationalisation or (most importantly for a genuine New Left) workers control. The only conclusion you can come to is that they don't mean it. But what do they mean? How can you seriously support people who won't tell you what they are after? (And "communism" is not a good answer).

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